David Mayhew’s 1974 thesis on the “electoral connection” and its impact on legislative behavior is the theoretical foundation for research on the modern U.S. Congress. Mayhew contends that once in office, legislators pursue the actions that put them in the best position for reelection. The electoral connection is a post-World War II phenomenon, but legislative scholars now suggest that Mayhew’s argument applies to earlier congressional eras. To assess these claims, Carson and Sievert investigate whether earlier legislators were motivated by the same factors that influence their behavior today, especially in pursuit of reelection. They examine how electoral incentives shape legislative behavior throughout the nineteenth century by looking at patterns of turnover in Congress; the re-nomination of candidates; the roles of parties in recruiting candidates, and by extension their broader effects on candidate competition; and, finally by examining legislators’ accountability. The results have wide-ranging implications for the evolution of Congress and the development of various legislative institutions over time.
About the Author
Jamie L. Carson is the UGA Athletic Association Professor of Public and International Affairs II in the Department of Political Science at the University of Georgia. Joel Sievert is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Texas Tech University.
Table of Contents
List of Illustrations ix
1 Introduction 1
2 Contemporary and Historical Evidence for an Electoral Connection 13
3 Unpacking the Electoral Connection with Jeffery A. Jenkins 25
4 Candidates and Competition in US House Races, 1820-88 51
5 Nomination and Turnover Patterns in the US House 77
6 Ballots, Election Timing, and the Personal Vote 101
7 Electoral Accountability in US House Elections 121
8 Reevaluating Electoral Incentives in Congress 151